Not Ours for Keeps–giving up the things we love

I love our little home.

It’s clean and bright with a magnificent WINDOW to let in the view. It’s well-built, tastefully finished, not rustic or allergy inducing.  There are no spiders, ants or bugs.  It is not overrun with a lifetime of collected knick-knacks.  It’s just right for the two of us at this stage of life, our first nest of our own since selling our family home and moving away from the coast.

I have a nook in which to write, enough shelves for enough books (the rest are in boxes somewhere), a handy way to play good music without the overhead of huge speakers and sound systems, and even a gas fireplace for instant warmth (no more wrestling with logs and sweeping up their remains).

Our little home is space-efficient, storage savvy, and easy to keep clean…and oh, the kitchen, it is all of the above, and the best of places to recreate, even if there are fewer mouths to savor the results.

Yes, this is a great little home.  Only, it’s not our own.  It’s one we could never afford to own.  Our year’s contract is just up and it’s being sold.  Maybe the new owners will want us to stay, and maybe not.  So I’m coming to terms with the reality that even good and perfect gifts, such as this home has been to us this first year in a new place, are not ours for keeps.  We have them for a season and we relinquish them to the Giver of all good things.  Have I been spoiled by this lavish provision? Can I move on in grateful trust?  And I wonder, is it wise to love a home?

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…* comes to mind. I have puzzled over this verse before.  I thought of it again driving into town for an appointment on a perfect Kodak-moment morning.  An unexpected spring snowfall had rendered the world a wonderland–freshly frosted landscape rising to towering snow-clad mountain majesties.  Exquisite!   Is it OK to love this view?  God’s creation is after all magnetically beautiful.  He intended it to be this way.  (One has only to note the cost of real estate in this mountain valley to know it!)  Believer and unbeliever alike are drawn in awe to these surroundings.  They reveal something of the might and greatness of the God for whom we exist.  When what He has created turns my heart in grateful praise to Him it has begun to accomplish its holy design.   If it only makes me pine to possess such a view, my love of the view has gone awry.

But it is not the beauty of God’s created world that John is referring to when he urges believers to “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you…”  He describes instead a worldly system of thinking that rivals love for God. “For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions.  These are not from the Father.  They are from this evil world.”*  

The lust to have and to hold all that we see as beautiful, simply for our own gratification and our own glory, is not God’s intent for us.  He is the rightful owner of every good thing, the Landowner of this great vineyard where we are placed to live and work.  We are stewards, cultivating what is ‘at hand’ for His Kingdom’s sake.  Yes, he provides all good things for our enjoyment but we are not meant to stake a claim to them as our own, to set our hearts on them as though they were forever.  Our hearts belong to God.  His will for us is our delight.  Stuff can get in the way.  It is not meant to.  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty (what comes of taking pride in our possessions) nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches (they are not guaranteed to last; there’s no real security here!), but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.*

So, what does this have to do with my love for my home here in this awesome spot?  Maybe nothing.  Perhaps it depends how I view it?

It has been God’s gift for a season.  Will I continue to live in it with gratitude, enjoying it, sharing it,  making use of it for as long as He wishes?  And then will I let it go without regret?  For if I  think I MUST keep it at all costs my mind will soon start playing Eve’s theme–Hmm… it appears God may not have my best interests at heart.  Doesn’t He see how beautiful this is; it’s surely what I most need, why does He prevent me from having it? And so ‘stuff’, whether forbidden fruit or a sweet suite, can drive a wedge between my heart and God’s.  No wonder John warns us not to love things.  Loving things empowers them to lure my heart away from its first Love, the love that alone satisfies in the deepest way.

In another place and time we had a pastor named John who continually put before us the picture of an open hand as the only way to enjoy to the full God’s blessings.  They must always be held in an open hand,  he said, with gratitude but not fierce clinging.  My Lord has every right to give or take away, for my greatest good and His greatest glory.  Job knew this well and responded: Blessed be the name of the LORD.*

Moses too exemplified it.  He let go his luxurious lifestyle and privileged position in the household of Pharaoh to fulfill God’s purposes for his life, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.*  Pursuing God’s purposes for his life, even if it meant a nomadic homeless existence with a quarrelsome bunch of people, held promise of a far greater pleasure than all the riches of Egypt could provide.  God’s pleasure is what mattered most to him.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.*

There is a potential hazard in having good things.  We may begin to think the thing is what we most need,  when all we truly need is God and what He chooses to provide, for this world is fading away, along with everything it craves*  but the one who does God’s will lives on forever.  A life committed to wanting God above all else will spare us of the payload of nasty consequences that inevitably accompany our best wrought plans for our own good.

Moses had it right:  Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.*  And I want to get it right too! 

Nothing in the here and now is worth setting my heart on.  It will not last.  Whether for a year of for a decade or for a lifetime any home here is temporary.  My greatest good and God’s greatest glory is accomplished when I submit my desires to His.  Grateful for what He gives, using it for His glory, and content when He takes it away or moves me on to something yet unseen…

Enjoying what God provides without insisting on possessing it, without allowing it to become my master, with an open hand and a grateful heart, is the best kind of pleasure there is in this life.  This is what I want.  So I am resolved:

  • to let my experience of this year in this place remain untainted by covetousness or anxiety.  It has been a good year.  I have loved, yes loved, living here.  It has been a lavish provision,  a testimony to a great and loving God. [see here and here for more of the story] It need not ‘spoil’ me for whatever comes next.
  • to trust God with the desires of my heart, knowing He will shape them to be His desires in His perfect time.  He will continue to abundantly provide for us, here or elsewhere, for all our todays right into eternity.
  • because my confidence is in God and not the real estate market, there is no less cause for peace, for joy, for thanksgiving on the cusp of losing our home than there was in the middle of the one-year contract.  Our hope is not in contracts but in Him.
  • my contentment is not based in ‘having it all’ or living in a luxurious suite, but in being where God has plunked us.  Today.  Always.  My hopes are set in God.

–LS

Therefore do not worry, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

I Tim.6:17 ESV;  Job 1:21 KJV;  Heb.11:25 ESV; Heb.11:26 NLT; I Jn.2:15 NLT; Ps. 90:1-2 NKJV; Mt. 6:31-34 NKJV; Ps.37:4 ESV; Ps.113:2 KJV

Have you loved and lost and had to trust God for the yet-to-be?  I would love to hear your story.  Just click the comment link below to share your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Not Ours for Keeps–giving up the things we love

  1. Linda, I don’t know if you are even on FB or Twitter, but I’m sharing this post both places because your situation with your home is a parable for EVERYTHING in our lives — maybe particularly in our phase of life with grown kids and grand kids. So much of what we care about is totally outside our ability to control. How do people do it if they don’t cling to a belief in the sovereignty of God and trust His good motives?

  2. Wow, Michele shared and I’m so glad I clicked. This is such a helpful, beatiful reflection on holding loosely and reveling in God’s beautiful provision without turning to greed and pride. Love, love, love this. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

    • Thank you and welcome Bethany. I’m sorry to have seemed to ignore your comment. I’m still getting acquainted with my new cyber-location and its protocols…I had a peek over at your new site. So glad you’re writing for His glory there. Keep up the excellent work!

  3. Ha! I am very selectively on FB and haven’t (yet?) ventured into the twittering world… Thanks for sharing though. I don’t wish to imagine how people do it. Certainly without the confidence and peace we are able to tap into. For a homebody who would gladly stay in the same house my whole life, surrounded by family, this life we are currently living is a stretch for me! But God knows and extends grace to live by faith. I’m grateful (and dependent!).

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